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OPINION: Putin’s treatment of Navalny could happen here under new Trump regime

OPINION: Putin’s treatment of Navalny could happen here under new Trump regime

Some of the worst characteristics of a classic tyrannical government are exemplified by the Russian government’s attempts to block public memorial services for dissident leader Alexei Navalny, who died in a Siberian prison, a death that even President Biden has blamed on Vladimir Putin.

The problem Putin now faces encompasses two layers: first – Navalny’s main funeral and memorial service itself, which remains unplanned and uncertain.

Secondly, Russia has to decide how to handle any spontaneous memorial services that are springing up throughout the country without turning Navalny into a bigger martyr than he already is.

According to the Beast, Navalny’s spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, wrote on “X”:

“Since yesterday, we have been looking for a place where we can organize a farewell event for Alexey. We have called most of the private and public funeral agencies, commercial venues, and funeral halls.”

“Some of them say the place is fully booked. Some refuse when we mention the surname ‘Navalny.’ In one place, we were told that the funeral agencies were forbidden to work with us. After a day of searching, we still haven’t found the farewell hall.”

As most know, one of the hallmarks of authoritarianism is preventing the people from rallying around the leader of a reform movement, especially one based on democratic principles and against true corruption.

Indeed, Russian authorities took a long time to even hand Navalny’s remains over to his mother. Now, just three days after receiving her son’s body, his mother, Lyudmila, has gone public.

She states that Russian “investigators” wanted Navalny buried in secret without a public service.

It is necessary to ask whether a similar situation might play out in an authoritarian state here. Probably not. Our guardrails are still pretty strong. But as we saw for four years, from 2016 to 2020, they are not as strong as we believed.

The only somewhat plausible parallel is the bizarre actions Trump took in the wake of Senator John McCain’s death. First, Trump refused to fly the flags at half-staff, and Trump bragged that he had to “give his approval” to the funeral in the National Cathedral (Not true).

In 2019, a mysterious request was made by someone in the White House to the Pentagon to have the U.S.S. John McCain moved out of Trump’s site during Trump’s visit to Japan a year after McCain’s death.

It is not a very apt comparison, but it’s all we have. The military stated that no action was taken, and there is no way to verify who in the White House made the call and whether then President Trump even knew about the call.  But Trump was obsessed with McCain’s legacy.

John McCain was no Nevalny, and it is unfair to compare the two, though John McCain was heroic in facing down the horrors of a POW. Navalny went back to Russia after his poisoning, demonstrating bravery and courageousness.

We are seeing classic dictatorial power playing out in Russia because reform movements launch on the back of leaders, alive or dead.

John McCain took on an almost heroic-like status in representing the last real members of the GOP who could stand up to Donald Trump. Navalny stood up to Putin. Certainly, right now, Navalny’s actions do not compare in danger.

Trump’s actions with respect to McCain seem to prove that it is conceivable that – if a protest movement formed here against a tyrannical right-wing dictatorship or authoritarian communist state, the opposition leader might receive similar treatment.

We have very few parallels to go by. Donald Trump’s disdain for John McCain’s “maverick” spirit is a poor comparison.

There are very few Alexei Navalnys, but lots of Republicans who want to emulate Putin.

This article is based on original reporting by Allison Quinn of the Daily Beast

Editor’s note: This is an opinion column that solely reflects the opinions of the author

Jason Miciak
Jason Miciak is an associate editor and opinion writer for Occupy Democrats. He's a Canadian-American who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He is a trained attorney, but for the last five years, he's devoted his time to writing political news and analysis. He enjoys life on the Gulf Coast as a single dad to a 15-year-old daughter. Hobbies include flower pots, cooking, and doing what his daughter tells him they're doing. Sign up to get all of my posts by email right here:

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